Highbourne Cay to Cambridge Cay to Staniel Cay

We departed Nassau and ~6 hours later arrived at our planned anchorage along Highbourne Cay. It was a little rolly getting there as the waves were hitting us on the beam but it was worth it to be out of Nassau. After arriving we did some snorkeling off the boat and then met Jan & Stacy (Ceci Kay) on the beach for a private happy hour sunset. There were a half dozen other boats anchored but we had the entire beach to ourselves which was lovely.

The following morning we tucked around the corner and settled into a slip at Highbourne Cay Marina & Resort. We knew one of the worst winter storms to date was heading our way and decided to head in slightly ahead of the weather just in case. We were not the only ones with that idea, by the afternoon the marina was 75% full and the following day it was 100% full. The wind was expected to be sustained 30 knots (with gusts of 40+) and there was no reason to be out at anchor if there was a better option. The marina & resort was very nice and with a price to stay there that reflected the type of clientele they hoped to attract. Let me put it this way – while cruisers are welcome we are not their target market, the big boats are.

Dock art from boats that have traveled through.

One side of the gym at Highbourne – works perfectly well for Heather.
Other side of the gym at Highbourne – works perfectly well for Kent.

We made the most of our 2 days at what the marina/resort and tried to ignore the cost. We rode our bikes around the island, explored the numerous beaches, splurged on a fancy meal at the resort, met some great cruisers on the docks and we were treated to delicious homemade chili by Jan & Stacy.

Kent got a chance to refresh his Laser sailing skills when one of our dock neighbors got out his Laser and then let Kent also sail around.

Kent admitted he was a little nervous sailing back in over the sharks that frequent the marina.

Broke out the bikes to explore the island.

Pretty easy to tell the weather around here ….

Highbourne has 8 or so beaches that vary in size but they are all stunning.

Not a bad view for Heather and Penny.

While we were fearful we might be pinned at the marina/resort for the entire week there was a short break in the weather for traveling south. We as well as several other boats decided to take advantage of this break and move. So along with Ceci Kay we make our way the 45 miles south to Cambridge Cay.
Cambridge Cay is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park system. The ECLSP was created in 1959 and is 176 sq miles. It is one of the world’s first protected areas of it’s kind. It is simply a stunning and pristine area. We grabbed one of the last few first come/first served mooring balls for $20/night. It is a very reasonable price for paradise after our expensive marina stay.

Heartbeat at Cambridge Cay and it’s clear waters.

Unfortunately it was very windy the 3 of the 4 days we were at Cambridge so we spent a lot of time on the boat or getting soaked dinghying Penny into shore for potty breaks. We did however get out to explore the island when the winds took a break. We also hosted dinner on our boat one evening for the park hosts David & Alex (Banyon) and Jan & Stacy. Dave & Alex arranged a happy hour on the beach on our last night there so we also got to know our fellow boaters who we had been hanging out next to in the wind for a few days.

View of Cambridge Cay

Jan and Kent waving down at Stacy and Heather as we continued a bit further on the trail.

Once the winds died a bit we were able to take the dingy to explore even further. The Aquarium snorkeling area was on our list to do. We dodged some dicey waves  in the little dingy across a cut but it was worth it. The snorkeling was amazing. We however learned a valuable lesson to always check the GoPro battery before going somewhere cool. Opps. Imagine crystal clear water and a ton of fish, hence the name – The Aquarium. Other area we had wanted to explore included Rachael’s bubble bath and fortunately we remembered the phone/camera.

You can barely make it out but Kent is sitting in Rachael’s Bubble Bath. Not sure who Rachael is but the waves crash in through this area and make it seem like bubbles hence her calling it her bubble bath.

Rachael’s Bubble Bath

At Rachael’s Bubble Bath – find Kent in the picture!

After 4 nights at Cambridge we (along with many others) took advantage of a good weather day (winds from the correct direction, calm sea state) and heading south 16 miles to the Staniel Cay area. We dropped the anchor at Big Majors anchorage in again what is indescribable crystal clear water.

We snorkel Heartbeat’s anchor to ensure it is set firmly because why not – the water is clear and warm here. Penny oversees the task.

Our first order of business was picking up a part at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, a stabilizer bar for the dingy davits that we have been trying to get since missing the package in Key Largo, FL.  We ran into Troy & Erin (Salty Tails) on the way (they had also been at Cambridge) and they gave us the low down on the SCYC lunch menu (we were starving), where to take our trash (yep, the less glamorous side of living on a boat and traveling the islands where proper trash disposal can take some effort) and finally the grocery options in town.

Grocery options are understandably slimmer on the smaller islands. On Staniel there is the Pink Store or the Blue Store and they are 50 yards from each other. Both are very small in size but pack in as much product as they can. We fortunately hit both stores the day after the boat had arrived and were able to stock up on some fresh fruits/veggies (at a premium price of course). We were pleasantly surprised to find sour cream and at $7.50 for a small container we will thoroughly enjoy every delicious spoonful.

Walking up to the Blue Store for groceries.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club it the main area to land your dingy and grab a bite to eat. It is far from a pretentious YC. Think island bar meets fuel dock meets a few slips for larger yachts that are passing through.

Lunch with Jan & Stacy (Ceci Kay) at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Jan & Stacey are from Seattle, it’s been fun to talk about the PNW with them.

While in Staniel we made sure to hit the highlights – Pig Beach and The Grotto (which got it’s name from the James Bond spy film “Thunderball” and “Never Say Never” that were shot here).

Pig beach, where pigs swim!

Pig swimming at Pig Beach

The Grotto – swimming with fish

From here we will continue our trek south exploring as many of the islands as we can on our way to Georgetown which we need to be in by the start of February to meet family.